About mountain lions and stockpiling deer

JOHN HARRIGAN April 05. 2014 12:09AM

At the Lazerworks store in Colebrook, I encountered a schoolmate's son who is in the timber and sugaring business.

He said "Did you hear about the cat near your place?"

He, like all astute persons who report sightings, immediately mentioned the tail. This is one of the ways that I winnow out the less verifiable reports. If they don't mention the long tail, their reports are not worth reporting. This has been my 4-decades credo of reporting mountain lion instances. There is absolutely nothing out there with a tail two-thirds its body length, an animal bigger than a Great Dane.

This man had seen his cat down toward Bryants' Hill. We traded stories. Mine, my favorites locally (I have many statewide, but mostly in the southwest, and around the Conways and up here where the three states and Lower Quebec pinch up) was among many of keeping track of these manifestations for lo these many years.

My close to home report was in a familiar frame. Living up above me (at last account) was a denizen I refer to as the Limey Tin-Knocker. If I mention that, everyone who lives here knows who he is. He's a Limey (a Brit, God save their souls for so stubbornly letting go)) and knocks tin, meaning that he is a craftsman in every sense of the word. He can tell the true story of a tinker's dam, and makes absolutely wonderful stuff.

On a morning not long ago, he was headed to downtown Colebrook and had to put the binders on to avoid striking a huge cat, with a tail as long as it was, and the cat made it across a two-rod road in two bounds. "Incredible tail," he said.

All but the trench-bound (meaning hide-bound, meaning "bookish") know full well that the catamounts, panthers, cougars, mountain lions) are back in their ancestral territory.

But it's going to take one killed in the road or shot by someone protecting livestock that will set the stage. And then the real story, the DNA, will begin to unwind.

Are the mountain lions that so many woods-savvy people are seeing descendants of the original Eastern Cougar strain that the Federal Wildlife Service has proclaimed extinct, or results of animals that have been kept as pets?

To this last, I've long put out the challenge that in no way could anyone have harbored a pet cougar without Officialdom knowing about it. And now, a circus coming next to you: A train wreck, in which we see giraffes and elephants trotting down Main Street.


Finally, who thinks about deer after a late-spring snowstorm? In most cases, people are thinking about mowing the lawn.

This late-winter weather north of the notches has been a deer disaster, with more on the radar-scope to come. Up here in the tips of where Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Lower Quebec meet, the spring weather is everything.

The deer disaster happens out of sight and out of mind.

Even as people love to see the deer, and in a Disney sense love and emote about deer, few people seem to understand that in late spring, after a heavy snow season, the deer are dying like flies.

This is a consequence of the oh-so-sheeshi "bucks-only" wildlife management tool, which makes hunters stockpile female and younger deer against the inevitable, which is the weather. Hunting, whether by regular gun season, muzzleloading or bow and arrow, absent enough predators to make a difference (see "coyotes evolving into brush-wolves," another scenario) is the cheapest tool. Who can suggest a better way?

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576, or email him at campguyhooligan@gmail.com.

John Harrigan

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